A Better Life by Working Together
Neema Mloka will soon tear down her home’s thatch and mud roof and install corrugated-metal sheets. Cement bricks will replace earthen walls.
For Mloka, the building is much more than a sturdier home. It’s the symbol of a brighter future.
Six years after Mloka joined a farmers’ cooperative and received training through MCC’s compact with Tanzania, the extra income from her organization has allowed the 37-year-old Tanzanian to begin building a new home on the sandy soil of central Dodoma region.
“Life is better ever since we began working together,” Mloka said.
Mloka said her income has risen significantly, but she didn’t want to provide specific numbers. She and other members of the Jitegemee cooperative have seen a boost in income, and she credits the group’s success to having received training on organization, agricultural practices and finances through the compact’s Gender Integration Program.
Mloka joined Jitegemee at its founding in 2007; the 11 women and three men in the cooperative currently cultivate 15 hectares of sunflowers and 10 hectares of wheat. And the group believes a future of working together can provide even more benefits; members are collectively purchasing a wheat mill to serve farmers from Chinangali and surrounding villages.
Across Tanzania, about 150 such groups—comprising about 1,000 members, two-thirds of whom are women—have received training through the Gender Integration Program. The program builds upon compact investments to more fully integrate men and women into the economy. The program works with existing and new groups, each built around a particular income-generating skill.
The groups are involved in a range of activities, such as food vending, agriculture, animal husbandry, blacksmithing, carpentry, and tailoring. Training includes lessons on sector-specific practices, finances, organizational management, entrepreneurship, hygiene, and sanitation.
Jitegemee members received training on improved crop cultivation in March 2007. Group leaders received additional training in March 2012 in leadership, financial management, planning, entrepreneurship, packaging, hygiene, and sanitation.
The lessons on proper financial management have proven especially effective, group leader Peter Michael Chiyana said. The money the group saved is financing the construction of a building to house the wheat mill and allowed members to persevere when pests ruined the annual wheat harvest.
“We still earned a good income from the sunflowers alone,” he said.
Three times each week, Jitegemee members work the fields as a group. They grow improved varieties rarely cultivated in Dodoma region; the sunflowers are used for seeds and oil, while the wheat variety under production is used by the country’s big breweries to make beer.
After each harvest is sold, 40 percent of the profits are deposited in a group bank account for future expansion. The remainder is distributed equally among members.
“We share ideas and advise each other,” Mloka said. “This way, if someone gets an idea on how to best save and spend money, it can help all of us. And it has helped all of us.”
The sales from previous harvests are allowing the group to spend about $1,300 to construct the building that will host the wheat mill. The group is planning to take out a loan of about $4,500 to purchase the mill and other machinery.
“This is a good time for us and a good time for our village,” Chiyana said. “When we begin milling, things will be even better.”